D.C. Could Explore Reparations For Descendants Of Enslaved People The bill, introduced by Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie, would establish a task force to study the issue and recommend proposals.
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D.C. Could Explore Reparations For Descendants Of Enslaved People

Ward Five Council member Kenyan McDuffie speaks during the District of Columbia Inauguration ceremony at the Convention Center in Washington, Friday, Jan. 2, 2015. Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo hide caption

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Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo

D.C. could become the latest jurisdiction to explore providing reparations to the descendants of enslaved people.

Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie introduced a bill Tuesday that would establish a task force to study the economic impact of slavery and recommend a proposal to help Black Washingtonians.

"The notion that, with hard work, everyone born in the United States has an equal opportunity to succeed and achieve the American Dream is sadly not the case," McDuffie said in a press release. "If ever we are going to achieve racial equity in this country, it will require official recognition of the role of government-sanctioned slavery, segregation and other actions in denying wealth-building opportunities to Black Americans."

White households in D.C. make more than half the income that Black households do on average, earning just under $150,000, while their Black counterparts make nearly $68,000, according to data from D.C. Health Matters released in January.

The Reparations Task Force Establishment Act of 2020 would create a nine-person task force comprised of five members appointed by the mayor, including an academic specializing in civil rights and two others from reparations and civil society organizations. The D.C. Council would fill the rest of the slots, with no more than four of them occupying seats, according to the Washington Post, which was the first to report on this legislation.

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The group would meet by June 1, 2021,and finish its proposal by July 1, 2023, and offer a detailed report that answers questions about reparation eligibility, how compensation would be awarded and the form it would take.

McDuffie paired the legislation with a bill that would declare racism a public health crisis in D.C.

The announcement comes after a summer of large-scale protests in the District and around the country to protest police brutality and racial injustice. If passed, D.C. would join a number of other cities like Asheville, North Carolina and Providence, Rhode Island, that have taken steps toward providing reparations in recent months.

In September, California became the first state to adopt a law to study and develop proposals for potential reparations.

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and Texas Representative Sheila Jackson Lee have introduced similar legislation in Congress, but such a measure is not expected to pass while Republicans — some of whom have dismissed the idea — control the Senate.

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